We’ve covered quite a bit in the first two parts of this series of interviews with Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron, including why the band aren’t in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the greatest hits.” One” and “Joy To The World,” what Negron wants his epitaph to be and what classic songs he prefers performing live. Today, we take a look at when Negron knew he had a good voice and why Three Dog Night eventually broke up.Here are edited excerpts from a longer phone conversation.
Jim Clash: When did you learn you had a good voice?
Chuck Negron: When I was eight, my twin sister and I were placed in an orphanage. My mother couldn’t take care of us. They had a choir there. My sister came in, but for some reason I couldn’t. I remember thinking, “I’m better than this guy. When the doo-wop bands were singing around the corner, I would join them from a distance. Finally, they asked me to come and sing with them. So I knew other people liked what I was doing. Then I realized that I could do things that a lot of people couldn’t. Plus it was fun. In a weird way I knew I could sing before I knew I could sing [laughs].
Shock: Have you ever picked up an instrument, say a guitar?
Negron: I had fun writing chords, but I’m really sad that I didn’t go further. When all the kids were doing their musical stuff, I was playing basketball. I came home, ate and went to bed. I really regret now that I didn’t put in the time like those guys, but I had that other love of the sport. That said, it made me very unconventional in my harmony choices. I didn’t know the rules. In Three Dog Night, the producer would say, “Where did you get THAT?” I would say “I don’t even know what it is [laughs].”
Shock: What a run Three Dog Night had. Why did you all break up?
Negron: It wasn’t a fight, as is the case with many bands. We were close, but it was competitive tension. You had three guys who were solo artists. I made my first record when I was 15. We argued about the songs, but never really got to it until the drugs and people got frustrated because the job wasn’t done. Dany [Hutton] stopped showing up to shows and was spending a lot of money on the road on cocaine. I was functioning. I gave Three Dog Night its first million sellers [”One”] and his last, in 1976, “The Show Must Go On”. Danny and Joe Schermie were eventually fired, both because of drugs. The very last show we did at the Greek Theater in 1976, the only three members left were myself, Cory [Wells] and Jimmy Greenspoon. There was only one physical altercation with the group when Cory punched Danny. Cory was a New Yorker so he just punched Danny in the nose [laughs]. Then Danny said to me, “Chuck, he hit me, he hit me.” I had no context, I did not see what had happened. I went after Cory, asking him what he was doing. Later I found out that Danny hit him first.
Danny had a nurse for nearly a year to keep him on the road. Literally the poor guy had jaundice, yellow. She hit him with B-12s and everything. Finally, she said she couldn’t take it anymore, that he was dying. We had to let Danny go, not just for us, but for his. The other thing was that Danny didn’t have as much talent as Cory and I did, so the band naturally went to whoever was producing. As Danny became less and less powerful, it really affected him. He went from someone who had run the show to someone insignificant, in the broadest sense. It literally took him from being this fun, charming guy to what he has become. At first I thought Danny would be the driving force behind the band. He even called on Brian Wilson to produce our first album. That said, he still had his sense of humor. He asked the people who made our clothes to design an old-fashioned nurse’s outfit and make him wear it. This poor woman [laughs].
Shock: So it was Danny and the drugs?
Negron: That and the businessmen, the managers, who constantly kept us on the road. We were doing two albums a year, a great record deal where if we released records on time, we got serious bonuses. When we went off the road, they locked us in the studio with guards at the door that wouldn’t let us out, masseuses came in, etc. What a life, right? But it worked us to death. Then when management saw things were going wrong, they didn’t stop. They just worked us harder, thinking the band was going to die. It was terrible. We took cocaine, then painkillers to sleep. Unfortunately, Danny was the source of the thing. He turned it all on for me. He knew the right people. I came out of college as a basketball player. I never got high until my mid-twenties. I never drank. Anyway, it was a crazy time.